Argentina Preview – No Messing Around in Brazil
World Cup 2014
Many reckon this could be Lionel Messi’s tournament…can Argentina’s talisman guide them to World Cup glory?
Rightly renowned for their attacking ability, Argentina have added some defensive steel to their displays since they reached the finals, keeping three clean sheets on the spin. That they’ve only won one of those games, will be of little concern to boss Alejandro Sabella as they defeated group opponents Bosnia 2-0 thanks to Sergio Aguero’s brace.
Remarkably for a player who will surely go down as one of the game’s true greats, Lionel Messi hasn’t enjoyed a great time of it at international level for extended periods and had somehow gone 16 competitive games without a goal for his country before Sabella handed him the captaincy in 2011. His selection as captain has proved inspired since though as
the Barca superstar has scored 20 in 21 games since being handed his preferred role just off the front two.
Argentina topped the South American qualifying group after a lengthy process of 16 games, losing only twice – and one of those was an entirely meaningless 3-2 defeat in their final game in Uruguay as they were already assured of first place. Messi and Gonzalo Higuain scored 19 of their sides tally of 35 between them.
The inclusion of Martin Demichelis may surprise some observers and highlights an imbalance in the squad’s quality from back to front, but the veteran is likely to only be used in reserve.
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors).
Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Nicolas Otamendi (Atletico Mineiro).
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ever Banega (Newell’s Old Boys), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Jose Sosa (Atletico Madrid), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell’s Old Boys), Enzo Perez (Benfica).
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St-Germain)
An opening game against a potent Bosnian side – but who are extremely fragile at the back – is surely all that stands between Argentina and the top spot in Group F, as it’s extremely difficult to see either Iran or Nigeria offering much resistance to a side boasting such glittering attacking talents.
15 June, Argentina v Bosnia-Hercegovina, Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 23:00
21 June, Argentina v Iran, Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 17:00
25 June, Nigeria v Argentina, Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, 17:00
An Argentina-Bosnia 1-2 in the group forecast looks a sound investment at 11/8. For those looking at bigger riches they could be found in Argentina finishing as the top tournament scorers at 7/2 with Messi an obvious but sound selection as top goalscorer outright at 8/1 considering the team and their talisman can fill their boots in remarkably straightforward group.